Socialization: The Gap in the Great Debate



Like every single homeschooling family I know, I have been asked the hated dreaded question when discussing our choice of school: What about socialization?


I have read scores of articles written from both perspectives of this issue. I have agreed with (and used) both the statistics and the snarky remarks when confronted repeatedly with this question. The more the question was posed to me, the more I noticed that there was a serious difference in thinking between my fellow homeschoolers and the public school crowd I left behind.


What should the primary purpose of the school be: education or socialization?


I decided to approach what I hypothesized the understanding gap to be in the most scientific manner possible: I polled Facebook.


I bring you my results, complete with pie charts that look like real pie to satisfy my literal kids and readers alike:



First, I posed the question you see in large letters above to public school teachers and parents only. I am overwhelmed by the response! I am also pleased that my friends were quick and honest with their responses, even if I was initially surprised with the results. Finally, I am extremely thankful to my friends who shared my question to help broaden the scope of my numbers beyond just my personal list.




Second, I posed the same question to my homeschool friends and groups. After explaining that I was offering an either/or scenario, and looking for what they felt the purpose should be, not what they feel it is, I was finally able to determine whether my original theory was correct or not.




Homeschoolers Respond

After wading through the information, the heartbreaking personal stories, the demand for “the other side” to use the proper terminology, and the outrage that so many feel every time they even hear the word “socialization,” I was able to properly tally the results. I was not really surprised, considering my first hand experience with other homeschooling families, but here it is:


Please notice the words “should be” because I think every single response from a homeschooler went on to tell me that they did not feel that the schools were living up to that job. Unless you count “brainwashing the children to believing socialist lies and abandoning what little faith their parents are able to instill in them.” (direct quote) Then several felt the educational system was thoroughly succeeding.


It was also asked that I clarify the definition of socialization to its actual dictionary meaning and not what people intend it to mean when they use it in the question:

1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.
2. the act or process of making socialistic: the socialization of industry.



Public School Teachers and Parents Respond


I opened my poll to teachers as well as parents to keep it as fair as possible. Homeschool parents are both at the same time, so why not include information from both public school teachers and parents? I also included them because of another theory I had that I will share further down.


The results?


Considering the how many times I have heard just my friends say an individual has inquired about socialization, the percentages did not surprise me. (On a side note, I threw the silly answers, such as my brother claiming he sends my nephew to public school for the amazing lunch program or mothers caps-lock answering, “FREE DAY CARE!!” out as I was explicit in only wanting an answer from my offered selection.)


Public schoolers were not nearly as verbose as their homeschool counterparts. I think I had about six who felt the need to justify their answer. One good friend said that she held the opinion that “the majority of learning is done at home regardless. At school, they desperately need to be learning social skills.”


But I promised you a second theory, didn’t I? Here it is: I hypothesized that teachers would hold a different opinion than the parents. In the answers for socialization, I had ONEteacher say that she felt it should be the primary goal for schools. It was quickly pointed out by another teacher that the former was a preschool teacher, and social play is the primary learning tool for that age group.


What about those who answered that the primary purpose of school was education? Well…


Of the 56 individuals who felt that education was the primary reason a child should be in school, only 7 of those were solely parents. I say “solely” because many of the teachers answering are parents as well, but I saw a clear division between them and the parents from any other field.


All this, of course led me to many other questions, such as, “If socialization is the primary purpose for sending your child to school, why should grades matter?” The smattering of folks to whom I posed this question never returned a clear answer. I refuse to read into that because I only asked those I knew would understand my motives and not read malice into the question. Those individuals have lives outside of me picking their brains.



What does it all mean, then?


The conclusions I have reached based on this line of research are as follows:


1) Public schoolers in general do not mean to cause the frustration they do when asking, “What will you do about socialization?” Unlike us, they do not hear the question routinely. Since socialization is held in such high regard, they are genuinely concerned that it may be difficult to provide.


2) Homeschoolers and public schoolers have very different ideas on what is important. Ok, I know that one is a no-brainer to many, but I also know that many may be shocked to find out that education is rated a second priority for public schoolers. In the same turn, public schoolers may very well be shocked to find out that we homeschoolers value education over socialization. They may also be surprised to know that we really would prefer our children to learn social standards from the adults we wish them to be like instead of the other children, ignorant of acceptable behavior, that roam the school halls.


3) Public school teachers aren’t so different from homeschoolers. Some of my staunchest supporters in the homeschool world are those who do or have taught in public school. One dear teacher friend said this, “I am very pro-homeschool…I think most teachers know a good teacher is a good teacher, whether a mom, dad, certified educator, or just a person with life experience. A motivated student is intrinsically a happy, well-adjusted child…It is obvious from statistics that homeschool children do well in college…I care and try very hard and love the kids I teach. I think parents who choose to homeschool feel the same way.”


Parting advice


Fellow homeschoolers, try not to be offended when the question comes up (and it will, we know it will). Instead, just remember that it is being asked because they have different priorities. It is almost like asking a secular homeschooler what curriculum they use for Bible time.

Now who wants pie?

Categories: harried mom, homeschool, kids, life skills, literacy | 1 Comment

What Have We Been Doing: Spending Time with Family


Continuing with my series bringing you current on our lives, I get to introduce you (sort of) to those who mean a great deal to me, my extended family.


During December, my Grandma turned 80. As a special surprise, all of her kids and their spouses came in for Christmas and brought one of her sisters. All told, we had 37 people at Christmas dinner.


It was filled with laughter, hugs, stories of old, and frustrations, just like any family get-together should be.


Of course, special needs children are an added bonus to gatherings such as this. Usually, I would have spent a great deal of time coaxing my littles out from hiding spots and/or leaving early due to meltdowns.


God smiled on us this season, though. My family is slowly growing more understanding and adaptable to the requirements. My children are learning to recognize their own limits and seek assistance with coping mechanisms. Hubby was off work and able to help man the battle stations with the littles. It was wonderful!


Doncha just love that expression? After Christmas, we really surprised Grandma with a birthday party. More of the cousins were able to come to town, bringing the family count to 50 plus we added members of her church family. All told, Grandma’s big 8-0 party hosted almost as many people as candles that should have been on her cake, with many sending good wishes and regrets that they could not attend.


Poor Grandma did spend part of the party fretting that she didn’t have her necklaces on because she thought she was running late to meet her dinner gathering. She uses the necklaces to mask the fact that she had a mastectomy as part of her treatment for breast cancer. She is in remission, however, and is absolutely beautiful whether bedraggled by fandangles or not. I count myself blessed to have her not only in my life, but in the lives of my children.


Another highlight of the family getting together was Mousey getting to meet many of them for the first time ever. She took a special fancy to one of my younger cousins who is slated to be married this coming summer. Hoping and praying we get to make the trek to Tennessee to see that.


As with most family gatherings as far back as I can remember, the younger kids found a decent corner and entertained themselves with games. When I was younger, Monopoly was the game. Days of Monopoly, to be exact, with everyone reluctantly leaving their pieces at the end of the day to head to bed and see them in the morning, precisely as they left them.


I just had to throw this picture in here. Dad came over to our house to play the part of a tripod (as mine was still en route from Neverland) when we took our family portraits. Monkey-Girl was demonstrating her Clay Matthews pose and Dad photo-bombed her! The reason I find this utterly hilarious is that Pony-Boy loves to photo-bomb almost as much as Aaron Rodgers and we have, practically since birth, called him the miniature version of my Dad.


All said and done, we had a joyous time soaking in these special moments. Generations bonding, playing, loving, growing. For that, I leave you with this picture of my nephew and the look he chose to bless me with every time I asked for a smile from behind my camera:


Categories: Christmas, harried mom, holiday, kids, large family, relationships | Leave a comment

What Have We Been Doing: Ornament Making

Continuing this series bringing you current with the goings-on in our little homeschool world, I would like to take a moment to point out the addition to my sidebar. Yes, I now have an Etsy store. So let me share why while I update you.



It started when Monkey-Girl was cast as a Candy Cane in the local ballet production “The Nutcracker”. The various dancers of each part usually exchange some sort of good luck gift on opening night. Based on what we had seen in previous years, Candy Canes usually exchanged those peppermint hooks for which they are named.


We like to be difficult different around here. We didn’t want to add to the backstage sugar rush, but couldn’t decide exactly what it was we wanted to do. Then when cleaning out my craft closet, we rediscovered a mold I had purchased when we made sun-catcher crafts, a beautiful ballerina.


The idea was born.


You probably deduced the brilliance of our idea. We created (yes, we-I was not making 30 ornaments on my own when she is old enough and capable of helping) these ornaments to look like the dancers. This required the cooperation of the instructor, who is not our studio teacher and probably thought I was nuts until she saw these.


This immediately branched into making them for a very special friend who was in “The Nutcracker” but not in the same part as Monkey-Girl this year.



This one required treachery to find out what the costume looked like before dress rehearsal because we wanted the ornament to be a surprise. Thankfully one of the moms in our part had a picture of the costume from the soldier part so we could make it possible. The squeals of joy made it worth it ten times over.


Seeing the joy these brought her fellow dancers made her want to make some for her studio friends as well.


Because the group was smaller for this class, we decided to take the ornaments to the next level and make them match not only the costume, but the ballerina herself! (Not pictured is the dancer from the middle. She was unable to attend the performance for reasons we do not know.)


Of course, if we made them for Monkey-Girl’s class, we absolutely had to make them for the twins’ class!


Again, we wanted to make sure they matched the girls. Making them this way really makes the girls feel extra special. These girls dance with my boys, though, so I really couldn’t stop just yet.


The great thing was, Monkey-Girl and I were able to temporarily hide these ornaments from the boys until their Christmas party. They were completely unaware that they were getting these and oh! their excitement was beautiful!


The parents’ excitement upon seeing the ornaments made a distinct impression on me, which birthed the Etsy store.


We expect to add to the store soon a whole line of athletes for various sports very soon-like as soon as the package with the molds arrives and I get pictures of my nephew from his sports to use as a model.


While visiting the store, you might notice some non-clay products. Those will be discussed in my next post about what we have been doing.

Categories: Christmas, harried mom, holiday, homeschool, kids, large family, schedule | Leave a comment

What Have We Been Doing: Dance

Hello, dear ones. Now that I am getting back into the writing mode, I felt it only fair to let you know why I have been neglecting the blog the past few months. It has not been for only one reason, so I have decided to do a little series about what the Zoo has been doing.



If you were not previously aware, we are a dancing family. When I was plotting my year-at-a-glance in my homeschool planner, over 1/3 of it was shaded for dance classes, rehearsals, and performances. Right now, the only ones not in classes are Hubby and Mousey, but she starts next year.


You may be wondering why, if this is a constant and norm for us, this has taken me away from writing. Well, this year has been extra special and busy for a couple reasons.












I took these pictures and the one in the title image the night she was first given her pointe shoes. The privilege of wearing these shoes has meant extra practice daily. Monkey-Girl is feeling the strain of having to work as she trains her legs for better turnout in spite of her double-jointedness. Even having worn sleep braces on her legs when she was a toddler doesn’t seem to have made the impact on those loose joints when she needs them all to turn properly for ballet.










As I said, we are a dancing family, so this isn’t all about Monkey-Girl and her new shoes. Our studio chose to take our Christmas performance to the local retirement homes and share with those living there and their families. I am so proud of these three and the love they shared through dance in our community.


If you are wondering where Moose is, since I told you he dances, too, his class does not participate in the Christmas program. When he moves up next year, he will get to dance at Christmas and Mousey will be on the sidelines with Daddy by herself.


Another thing that will be changing next year is that Monkey-Girl will not be featured in these pictures alone. This was taken when she was at stage rehearsal for our local ballet company’s rendition of “The Nutcracker”. Next year, the twins will be old enough to audition, whether the company chooses to perform this ballet or another.


As a stage mom for this performance, I had the best access for photography in the house!

This was the view, even with my professional camera, when I wasn’t a stage mom. True, I could have easily gotten closer shots by changing the lens, but I have plenty of close-ups I forced upon shared with my personal page. I figured a couple giving the feel of the entire production would be good for our year book.


And this gives you a little idea of what we have been doing. The dance schedule has left me, at times, contemplating installing a cot at the studio to get some rest while there, but I enjoy it, as do the kids. They have all been given the choice to participate in this or something else. The boys have expressed interest in sports, but in addition to, not in place of dance. With 5 kids running around, I have told them they must be limited to one paid extra curricular each, and each has chosen dance.


Yes, I dance, too. Beginning last year, I joined an adult tap class. Unlike most of the ladies who dance with me, I have never had a class before, not even as a child. I had to have these taps specially made because our local shop didn’t have women’s size 12 tap shoes for me to try on. I like it, though, because it meant I was able to add insoles so my knees and back don’t suffer as much from the tapping on hard floors.

Categories: harried mom, homeschool, kids, large family, schedule | Leave a comment

My Home School Grades {GIVEAWAY}

This post and sidebar include affiliate links. All proceeds go to a college fund for the zoo.

Not too long ago, I reviewed this amazing product for tracking my kids’ grades and creating homeschool transcripts for when they apply to college, My Home School Grades.


There have been some fabulous updates since my review came out! There are more publishers listed to choose from, a class schedule that will help you see if you forgot to enter a grade, and much more.


They also came out with different payment options, which I updated in my original post. These newer arrangements reflect the fact that some of you may be graduating your child soon and won’t need a lifetime membership. Some might not be able to swing the full lifetime cost now, but would like to go ahead and get started. Others yet are ready to have this to graduate all your children, even the ones not yet born!


Regardless of your current situation, I have some good news for you! As a member of the affiliate program for My Home School Grades, I have a very special Christmas present: a ONE YEAR subscription to My Home School Grades to give away to one of you!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, some of you are looking at that thinking, “Well, that is great for one family.” I have something for you, too! If you follow this link, then you can get 15% off a recurring subscription if you sign up from now until December 31, 2013.



Categories: Christmas, giveaway, holiday, homeschool, kids | 5 Comments

See The Light Art Project {REVIEW}

As part of the Mosaic Reviews team, my family and I were once again blessed to try something we might not have previously been aware of. This time, we were allowed to pick an art project from See the Light, a Christian Homeschool Art Curriculum. The projects we were allowed to choose from can be found on this page and are valued at $14.99 each.



We chose to try out the project “Sunflowers” which teaches in the style of Vincent Van Gogh. When it arrived in the mail, we immediately checked the supply list on the back of the DVD and went shopping. I waited for the DVD to arrive because I wasn’t sure if I would receive my first choice or not. You, dear one, do not need to wait to shop if you don’t want to. Each project has a list of materials on the site! We already had art pads lying around, so all we had to pick up was a set of oil pastels (at least 24) which we got at Hobby Lobby for about $3.


(Note: we did choose to purchase the recommended colored paper since we already had on hand white drawing pads. If you are completing this project as part of your fine arts credit, you will probably want to follow recommendations.)



You might notice that there are 4 children pictured above. If you have been reading for any amount of time (or are just observant) you will note that only Monkey-Girl is over 10, which is the suggested age (10+). This was just too fun not to include the others who were old enough to follow directions.


Only Monkey-Girl and I used the oil pastels. Since the artist explains in lesson 1 that oil pastels are similar to crayons (but with mineral oil), the younger boys used just that. (I apologize now that I neglected to photo my own drawing step-by-step. Keep scrolling and you will see the final project that I did at the end.)


Each lesson begins with some art history specific to the project. So for lesson one, we were given part of Van Gogh’s background. Then she reads a portion of scripture and ties it all together.


Especially because we had the younger boys following along, we paused a lot during the video. This is perfectly acceptable for any age so that the student may complete the steps that were just described. All of the instructions were clearly spoken as well as demonstrated throughout the video. The instructor talks the student through sketching, color selection, and composition, always showing reasoning behind the choices.



As you can see, in lesson two, we began the layering of colors in the picture. Again, all instructions were easy to follow (even Moose, resident 4 year old, was able to mostly follow along). We had also learned some more history of Van Gogh and added another scripture.


I did have to remind my easily discouraged Monkey-Girl that this was a process and that her picture was not expected to look like the professional’s on the screen.



In lesson three, we were talked through filling in the negative space and some additional shading. We did have to take longer pauses during this particular lesson so the kids could hunt down just the right color or fill it out precisely how much they wanted to.



In this lesson, we layered on the final touches. As you can see, Moose went a little crazy with his. That’s ok, though, because the instructor reminded them all repeatedly that they are the artists and this was their creation. Just as we are God’s creation.


Monkey-Girl was finally boosted by how hers turned out when she stepped away from it as instructed. She realized that it looked different and more put together when she wasn’t so close her nose had color on it.


This project also highlighted Pony-Boy’s desire to be the fastest as he cut corners. Instead of the short strokes described, he squiggled the background down the page so he could finish before Duckie. This would not have mattered, though, because Duckie was concentrating on layering his crayons as much like the oil pastels as possible.


All told, this was a wonderful experience! The kids and I enjoyed being able to learn some more about art, art history, and tie the Bible in to that.


An added benefit is that when they are older, we can do this project again and see the difference in what they have done and what they will do. Why would we want to do this again? Well, for one, See the Light is usable in all 50 states as a homeschool fine arts credited program. In order to make this count for the appropriate credit hours, we will go back and purchase additional lessons. Before we revisit this particular lesson in the years to come, the kids will be better learned on technique and composition (as well as the art history and Biblical references).


If you would like the chance to try out See the Light in your home, may I direct your attention to this page on their website? Here, they currently offer a few small instructional videos for free. I am sure that you will gain from them the same appreciation I have from the DVD. Once you have watched those, you can then browse the online store here and decide which project will best suit your family!



Did you think I forgot to show you how I did? I didn’t. This just isn’t about me, so I am putting it down here, out of the way.



Categories: art, Christian, harried mom, homeschool, kids, Mosaic Reviews, review | 2 Comments

How does God know we love Him?

I want to apologize to you, dear one, that I have been noticeably absent from writing outside of my obligations. I have had much I want to share, but have been waiting patiently until I felt the full push from the Holy Spirit to share. I will still be writing my reviews and will get some more posts about what we have going on in our homeschool up soon. In the meantime, this post has been tumbling in my rock tumbler until it is polished and ready.



I have always struggled with demonstrative love. I could play the blame game for a minute and discuss familial issues that are partially at the root of this struggle, but it would only elongate this post needlessly. This isn’t about my issues so much as how I have learned to overcome them in both my personal and spiritual walk.


I have been self-taught for the majority of my life, learning what I need from books and life experience. As the world has modernized around me, my research materials have branched out to include the internet. All this self-teaching has applied to the various ways I have learned to express love as well as the rest of my life.


Several years ago, I read a handful of marriage counseling books, not because there was some noticeable problem in my marriage, but because I recognized enough baggage that I had brought from my past and how it would become a problem if I didn’t address it in advance. So I put my nose to paper, discussing the things I was learning with Hubby as I had “Eureka!” moments about the ways each of us were operating separately. Recently, as I have been studying the Bible more, and having the full realization of being Christ’s bride settle on my shoulders, I have tried applying some of these concepts to my relationship with Him.


I have heard more people than I can count over the years say something like, “If he/she loved me, he/she would show it!” Each of these individuals I have counseled has had a different definition of what showing it meant to him/her. One lady wanted her spouse to buy her presents without her having to tell him precisely what to get. A man told me that he felt unloved because his wife was unable to maintain a perfectly clean house as she once had. Another friend wanted to go on dates like they did when they were courting, while her husband was asking for her to demonstrate more physical affection.


For each of these people who confided in me having as many differences as people usually have, they had one thing in common. When I asked if they had told the other person how they needed love demonstrated, they were lost. “He/she should know! After all, I do _____ for him/her all the time!”


Eventually, I shared with them what I had learned from these books and directed them to read for themselves whichever I felt would best help their particular situation. I have successfully implemented several different methods to understanding Hubby and to try to assist him in understanding me.


All that aside, though, because this is about my relationship (and yours, love) with Christ, not Hubby.


So how do I discover the best way to show my love to God? Well, I can’t ask Him to take the simple questionnaires from the back of the books to figure out His “love language” or other demonstrative methods.


I can turn to the Bible to see what He said on the topic!



Well, that seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?


God wants our love demonstrated through obedience. He gave us these great commands on how to live our lives and feels loved when we listen!


Parents will understand this possibly more than those who aren’t yet blessed with children. When we tell our children to do something, and they do it, there is a tremendous feeling of adoration and loyalty that branches out from their actions.


Jesus went on in this conversation to say (v. 23-24) “All who love me will do what I say…Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.”


So what are His commands? Well, there were a series of commands given in the Old Testament (including but not limited to the Ten Commandments), but Jesus summed them up as: Love nothing more than God and then love the rest of the people as you love yourself.


Putting this into practice is not always easy. It is hard for me to love the family members who intentionally treat me poorly because my decisions don’t line up with theirs. It is hard for me to love the people who have insulted me in the past. It is hard for me to love those who choose sin as a lifestyle.

I could ramble on, but you get the point. Loving others is hard for me. However, if I want God to know that my love for Him is genuine, I have to try.

An especially dear friend (who has mentored me whether she intended to or not) has told me that she often places her name in certain places in scripture to see if she feels she measures up. The fact is that each time, she sees places where she could do better. I like doing the same. “Jennifer, if you love me then you will obey my commandments.”


I have come to believe that is the point of many of the conversations recorded in the Bible. I read that, I place myself in that precise conversation, because God is talking to me! He is telling me to love and obey, to show Him to the least of the world.


I’m not good at it. I struggle more than I succeed. I am filled with a biting sarcasm that often flows unchecked from my mouth. Yes, I was made this way.


But it is my job to ask for help to be better. Jesus, help me show love to others so that my love for you is evident and not something I have to tell everyone I have. Prepare me to be Your bride, Lord. Amen.


Categories: Christian, devotional, harried mom, Inspired Bloggers Network, love story, marriage, relationships | Leave a comment

Apologia’s A Light for My Path {REVIEW}


I was recently sent a copy of A Light for My Path by Davis Carman via Mosaic Reviews to share with my kids (yes, and you, too). This book is a beautiful ABC book based on Psalm 119 but is also so much more.


The first great feature I would like to point out is the beautiful artwork as shown in the picture above. Alice Ratterree did an excellent job illustrating different animals to correspond to the letters of the alphabet. Each animal accompanies a word that describes “God’s Word, Law, Statues, Decrees, Commands, and Precepts” (this phrase appears on each of the 26 ABC pages).



This book was designed to be used during cuddle type reading situations, so the whole zoo piled on my bed to enjoy this together. Even the older kids oooh-ed and aah-ed at the pictures, taking turns searching for the plant or animal from the previous page on the current one.



Moose and Mousey are obviously perfect for this book as they do not know how to read yet. Moose did like to show off his knowledge of the alphabet, though.



Another great aspect of this book is that it is based on Psalm 119, which is an acrostic poem in the Bible. If you don’t know what acrostic is, it means a poem where the lines begin with the letters of the alphabet in order. However, Psalm 119 was not written in English.



So the back 22 pages that have the Psalm on it, also do so showing the Hebrew alphabet! Each page shows the letter how it looks as well as a pronunciation key. This is a great way to feel closer to the Bible as originally written together as a family!


If you want to bring home this wonderful book for your children, you can purchase it from Apologia on their website here. It is $14 plus shipping, but entirely worth it!


Categories: Christian, homeschool, kids, literacy, Mosaic Reviews, review | Leave a comment

I am ONE

If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism.


I know, it is a cliche, one that we in the special needs community hear a lot. However, no matter how many times it is said, it can almost always stand to be said one more time because there is someone out there that just doesn’t get it.


I am one


There are some very well-intentioned people who like to tell all kinds of stories about what works for another family with a spectrum special kid. These stories almost always have some point of the family doing something differently than I do for my boys that works so well. Sometimes implied, sometimes out-right spoken, the expectation is for me to apply this other family’s choices to my family’s life.


During some of these encounters, I very much understand how the lions felt when the Lord didn’t allow them to eat Daniel.


Why? Because only God can clamp my mouth shut when someone decides to tell me what I should do (sometimes even phrased as what I need to do) for my kids.


You see, when someone offers a blanket statement of what must work for my kids because it works for some other ASD kid, they forget one key element that I honestly don’t think they would be as quick to forget if all of my babies were neurotypical: my boys are still individuals! 


Pony-Boy loves football and green. He reads quickly and remembers almost everything that ever happens around him.


Duckie is non-competitive and prefers yellow. He likes collared shirts better than t-shirts and is absolutely brilliant with Legos.


Moose likes to be tough and strong. He wants so badly to keep up with his brothers and really does not understand why they get to share a birthday and he has to have one almost two whole weeks later!


These armchair experts also seem to not understand that what I do with and for my kids, I have researched. I have talked with other special needs parents, I have read articles from all over, I have discussed with therapists, and I have fully applied the scientific method to my kids to figure out what works best for them in particular situations. Like most parents, whether they realize it or not, I have become the expert on my children.


Does this apply only to special needs families?


Not really. Most parents I have met or spoken online with have suffered at the hands of others who feel they are better versed on children that don’t belong to them. The majority of the time, these expert opinions are entirely unsolicited and even less desired.


True, there are some parents who truly want help and advice. They  usually ask for it, though, instead of waiting for it to be thrust upon them. And yes, sometimes the unsolicited advice comes as the result of a conversation where one person just wants to vent and the listener makes the mistake of thinking the speaker wants help fixing the problem. I have been very guilty of offering my two cents on occasions such as that.


But these aren’t the type of cases I am talking about here. I am talking about minding my own business, not even necessarily in a situation that would require help, and it is verbally bashed over my head.


Starting back at ONE…


We have friends on the spectrum, too. Some hate time, while others share Pony-Boy’s obsession with it. Some are perfectionists while others are a little more laid back and artsy like Duckie. Some talk practically non-stop, even when they are asleep, and others, like Moose, have a hard time finding words more days than not. Some don’t speak at all.


The fact is that no matter the similarities that cause the buzzwords to be the same (Autism Spectrum Disorder), all these kids are still individual. So if you know one, you know one. If, like my family, you have three, then you have three-ones. Oh, sure, mine share certain behaviors, triggers, and even calm down techniques, but those similarities are not whole, all-encompassing. Neither are their diagnoses. Under all the alphabet soup attached to my boys, they are still humans, and therefore individuals.


It is hard and stressful to try to figure out what makes our kids tick some days. It is frustrating beyond belief to deal with people who don’t even try to give our children grace when situations are incomprehensible for them, or worse, bully them for being wired a bit differently than others. It is even more aggravating to deal with the armchair experts who seem to be everywhere we turn.


What to do if you suspect you are the unsolicited


If you read this and are thinking, “Well, I am known to be like the armchair experts she is talking about,” then maybe you want to make things easier on those to whom you give advice. Well, I can offer you some things that I know would help me, and maybe some of our other friends will chime in the comments on ways that would help them to give you a good census.


1) Offer encouragement more than advice. As I said earlier, I have done research on what I need for my kids. I don’t know a single special needs parent who hasn’t done research on their own, even to the extent that Hubby does his own that he brings to the table when we discuss methods of improvement in our home.


2) Respect the decisions of the parents. I know this one seems basic, but real life doesn’t show that it is. If you are in contact with my children and I tell you that I prefer a specific method, please use that one, even if you think another will work better. The fact is that even if whatever you do or say demonstrates the initial result you desire, you don’t have to live with the after-effects. I, on the other hand, have to hear about it for days, weeks, sometimes even months and years down the line. Each time I have to deal with the repercussions of someone else’s careless acts, it infuriates me even more.


3) If you can’t say anything nice… Oh, sure, I know you intend to be nice, but since I’m bathing in cliches, good intentions pave what road again? The fact is that all this unsolicited good advice and good-natured story telling can be exhausting on those of us who have to smile while God shuts our mouths to avoid completely ruining a relationship we otherwise cherish. Truth be told, some days it makes me very anti-social. Worse, in my case, the added stress causes pain flares and sends me to bed for days until the pain subsides.


4) Pray for us. This is probably my favorite piece of advice to give and follow. Instead of snapping at my well-meaning loved ones when they force their opinions down my throat, I pray. If you are reading this as the one holding the spoon of advice, maybe next time you can pray instead of telling me what works so well for someone else and therefore must work for me and mine. The praying, I am certain, is what prompts God to do some mouth-clamping.



I love all of you. I want you to know I have struggled writing this piece for quite some time, knowing it needs to be said for my own sanity if nothing else, but also knowing there are others out there who need this. You might be spectrum special parents like I am, struggling against a know-it-all world. Or, you just might be the trigger-happy advice shooter who needs to know you are wearing us down. I pray, even as I publish this, that it is helpful to even one.


Because I am one.

Categories: ASD, Asperger's, autism, harried mom, kids, meltdowns, special needs | 6 Comments

KidCoder by Homeschool Programming {Review}

One of the greatest things about homeschooling for my family is the ability to follow the interests and passions that each of my children have. I mistakenly thought when I first began that following their obsessions would be limited by my own knowledge. This review opportunity from Mosaic Reviews proved me wrong!



For the sake of the review program, we had to choose one of four year-long curricula Homeschool Programming offers (valued at $145-$155 each) for our family to learn from. There were two KidCoder options for grades 4th-8th and two TeenCoder options designed for grades 9th-12th. For my family, I chose Windows and Game Programming (Windows being 1st semester and Games being 2nd semester) which was designed for 6th-8th grades.


Now, if you have been following along for a bit (or are just really good at telling age by the picture above), you will notice that I included both Monkey-Girl (age 11, grade 6) and Pony-Boy (age 7, grade 2) in my review. My reasoning for doing this was simple: Pony-Boy loves computers and I wanted to see if this was easy enough for him to follow along. You may also notice that I did not include Duckie (also age 7, grade 2). That decision was based simply on the fact that he wasn’t feeling too well when we started and then he broke his glasses.



The first thing we did was print out the course manual. (Note to reader: if you purchase this curriculum, you get to skip this step as they send you a physically printed book and a CD with the book as a PDF.) Sure, I could have left it as a PDF and had the kids read it on the computer, but we have to ration screen time fairly with the whole crew around here, and I wanted the test subjects kids to have access to this lesson even when someone else was using the computer.


I absolutely love the fact that this lesson sequence gave the kids a bit of computer history to start out with! I feel it gave them a greater appreciation for how far things have come over the years (and maybe even understand why Grandpa will never catch up with them).




I made Pony-Boy and Monkey-Girl each read the lesson before we watched the video for it. Then I made them watch the video before they were allowed to attempt the directions themselves. Before watching the first videos, Monkey-Girl was slightly lost and felt overwhelmed by the text. The video brought a little cartoon lightbulb over her head! “Oh, wow! That makes so much more sense now!” (actual quote)


Although the videos are sold separately, neither Homeschool Programming nor I recommend getting just the DVD for you child to learn from. At first, I was baffled by their suggestion because they lined up so well with one another. Then I realized a very simple truth: what if I need to go back? You see, if I only have the videos and the kids need to review something from a previous lesson, I have to watch and fastforward through to find the spot that talks about what they need. If I have been using both the book and the DVD, however, it cements a little better in their minds and I have easier access to the information with them!


Another reason is the simple fact that the book encourages a little something extra from the kids at the end of each chapter. Each “Your Turn” section familiarizes the kids with what they were just taught so they feel more comfortable as they go along, getting ready to create their very own program!



I absolutely mean this! I have only ever had the basic knowledge of computer skills afforded to me when I was younger and taught a little more over the years by my best friend and computer guru, Kevin. This was one of the reasons I was partially afraid of this review when I dared to sign up for it. However, taking the kids through the steps offered in the book and on the videos, I learned enough to feel comfortable when they had a question. (I am sure some of you homeschool veterans are all about learning with your kids. I personally had not encountered a whole new subject before now!)


All the program requirements that I didn’t already have on my basic computer were free-access and easy to download! All I did was follow the links provided in the PDF and the the instructions below them. Homeschool Programming was even thoughtful enough to provide screen shots of the process in case I got lost (which, let’s face it, was highly probable)!


And it really was simple enough for Pony-Boy, too. Sure, the grade level said it was designed for older kids. True, it will probably be easier for him to use when he is older and a little more familiar with the layout of the keyboard and how to double-click for himself. Those downfalls aside, though, he was able to keep up with the class just as Monkey-Girl was!


The kids have already used what they have learned to make simple and cute little programs and tweak them. They have even peeked ahead and are anticipating lessons we have yet to get to, discussing the things they most look forward to creating. (Monkey-Girl is wanting to jump to the Pig Latin Translator while Pony-Boy absolutely adores the Guess My Number lesson to come!)


We aren’t done with this yet, as it is designed to be a year-long learning program. However, I am very impressed with how well it is working for us so far! I have already made sure we can continue to learn this throughout this year, as well as preparing to add on the other course loads for years to come. They are preparing to release new lessons even as I type this and I can safely say that my entire zoo family is excited to see what is coming!


Cost and other technical aspects


The product costs for this super cool computer science curriculum depends on how you choose to purchase it. It can start as low as $70 for one semester without the DVD and go up to $155 for an entire year’s lessons with the DVD. (Note: DVDs are purchasable separately for $20-$30, but not intended to replace the book as you will miss things that are not on just the videos.)


The KidCoder and TeenCoder Java/Android products are compatible with either Windows or MAC OS (that is operating systems if you are completely technologically impaired). The KidCoder and TeenCoder Windows/Game programming do require a Windows compatible OS. Please look here for any additional system requirements that you may need or questions you may have.


Homeschool Programming is NOT Common Core Standards (CCS) aligned! They say so here. I include this link because I actually just stumbled across it when browsing their site and know that this is important to so many of my readers (yeah, and me, too).


Categories: computer science, homeschool, kids, Mosaic Reviews, review | Leave a comment